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Our Lady of
Perpetual Help,
pray for us!

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- KOUR-LP is On The Air at 92.7

Why Our Lady of Perpetual Help?

- What the Picture Means
- History of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
- Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
- More Information on Devotion to Mary

The "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" icon is popular among both Catholics and non-Catholics. In 2001, Pope John Paul II presented an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to a Muslim cleric on the first visit of a Pope to a mosque.

Our call letters - KOUR-LP - pay tribute to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. All stations west of the Mississippi River are required to have call letters that begin with a "K". The "-LP" suffix refers to the "low power" FM service for which we have received a construct permit. Hence, our six letter call sign.

Just as Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus, we pray that this radio station will bring others to Christ and His Church. We ask Our Blessed Mother to bless our broadcast schedule, that it may be a "perpetual help" to all who listen.

What the Picture Means

Look at the copy of the picture. Frightened by the vision of two angels showing Him the instruments of the Passion, the Christ Child has run to His Mother, almost losing, in His haste, one of the tiny sandals. Mary holds Him in her arms reassuringly, lovingly. But notice her eyes. They look not at Jesus, but at us. Is this not a touch of genius? How better express Our Lady's plea to us to avoid sin and love her Son?

Christ's little Hands, too, are pressed into Mary's as a reminder to us that, just as on earth He placed Himself entirely in her hands for protection, so now in Heaven He has given into her hands all graces, to distribute to those who ask her. This is the principal message of the picture. A Byzantine icon, however, it is replete with other symbols. Here are some of them.


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History of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The origin of the Our Lady (Mother) of Perpetual Help icon is uncertain, although many have thought that it was painted by St. Luke and venerated in Constantinople until that Holy City fell in 1453. The Byzantine style and Greek lettering are consistent with an icon of Eastern origin.

While we may not know the exact origins of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we do know the next part of the story -- from the original picture itself. A parchment attached to the painting tells the story of how it got to Rome.

According to this record, a merchant from the island of Crete heard stories of many miracles that occurred around a fabulous painting on the island. Wanting this power for himself, he stole the painting and packed it away with his other wares. His travels led him, and the stolen picture, to Rome, where he suddenly fell ill. As he lay dying, he told the whole story of the stolen picture to his friend, a Roman, who was caring for him during his illness. His last request was that the Roman take the picture and have it placed in a church where it would help many people.

The Roman's wife, however, put the picture in her bedroom. Mary made her opinion of this situation known by appearing to the Roman in a series of visions. Each time, she asked him to stop hoarding the picture and start sharing it with others. And each time, the Roman ignored her. After being rejected by the adults, Mary visited their six-year-old daughter. The daughter announced that Mary had commanded that the picture be placed in a church between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran -- a church called St. Matthew's. At last, the Roman obeyed, and the picture was placed in the care of the Augustinians on March 27, 1499.

It's hard to understand why Mary would choose such a place to be honored. St. Matthew's was a small church in a barren place far from the center of the city. Yet the rich and the poor, the powerful and the lowly alike, traveled the rough stone path to the church to seek comfort from Our Mother of Perpetual Help -- and to learn from her humility.

One man, however, was not impressed. In 1798, Napoleon's general ordered the destruction of thirty churches when the French invaded Rome. St. Matthew's was one of them. After the soldiers left, those who loved Mary searched the ruins but could find no trace of the picture. There seemed to be no doubt that their beloved picture had perished with the church.

Almost half a century later and miles away, an altar boy named Michael Marchi listened to a sacristan's tales of the past. The sacristan, named Augustine Orsetti, pointed to a picture of Mary in the chapel and said, "See that picture, Michael? It is old -- very old. It used to hang in St. Matthew's Church, where many people came to pray to the Mother of God." The painting, he said, had been rescued at the last minute, hidden from the marauding general in a humble cart, and transported secretly to this chapel. "Remember that," the sacristan told him. Michael Marchi remembered.

Years later, Father Michael Marchi, by then a Redemptorist, was in Rome. In 1853, Pope Pius IX commanded the Redemptorists to establish their world headquarters in Rome.

After much searching and prayer, the Redemptorists bought a huge estate. When they inspected their new property, they found a house, barns, stables, gardens -- and the ruins of an old church. Inquiring into the history of the church, the Redemptorists learned that its name was St. Matthew's, and that it once had housed a miraculous painting, a painting that had been lost.

Even as they ruefully shook their heads at the loss of such a treasure, Father Michael stunned his associates by telling them that not only did the picture still exist, but he knew where it was.

After three years of prayer, the Redemptorists decided to ask that the picture be brought back to Rome. When they told Pope Pius that it was Mary's own wish that she be enshrined between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran -- where the Church of St. Alphonsus now stood -- the Pope immediately commanded the return of the painting. Flowers and banners greeted Our Mother of Perpetual Help on April 26, 1886, and miracles attended her procession -- including the cure of a four-year-old boy suffering from a brain illness. After 75 years, Our Mother of Perpetual Help had finally returned home.

But Pius IX didn't give the picture to the Redemptorists as a gift. He gave it to them as a mission. He told them, "Make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world." The Redemptorists embraced this command wholeheartedly by distributing reproductions of her picture and talking about her in missions and homilies around the world.

Their efforts yielded impressive results. By the turn of the century, 1.8 million Spaniards belonged to the Archconfraternity of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, ten thousand shrines and altars were dedicated to her in France, and devotions in her honor were observed in several thousand churches all over America. These services, or novenas, of Our Mother of Perpetual Help drew thousands of people. Churches in St. Louis, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston had to hold eight or ten services a day to accommodate everyone who wanted to honor Mary, and in New York, the service was even broadcast over the radio.

In Iowa City, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Devotion continues at St. Patrick's Church on Tuesday mornings after the 8:30 a.m. Mass.


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Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as your loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a Mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help.


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More Information on Devotion to Mary

For references to Mary in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: click here

(The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an official Church document. It was issued by Pope John Paul II in 1992.)

For answers to common objections regarding devotion to Mary and the Saints, try the Catholic Answers website: click here

(Catholic Answers hosts the daily call-in show "Catholic Answers Live." Check the KOUR-LP programming schedule for more details.)

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